Friday, April 24, 2009

30-Day Persistence Challenge: Automating the Hard Stuff

Yesterday, we talked about how getting support to do the daily stuff you don't want to do (invoicing, collections, querying, decluttering--you know, the bread-and-butter of keeping your business going). But Peter Ubel shared another really good way of creating a hard-and-fast structure to help you accomplish your goals:

Automate it

When Ubel talks about automatic withdrawals to an account to which you don't have quick access, he's identified two ways to create a structure:
  • Take it out of your daily to-do list.
  • Make it hard for you to go back on your plan. (In this case, a plan to save money.)
Action: To apply that to yourself, you'll have to look for persistence projects that fit the bill. Most of the things that are hard to do are hard to do because you have to do them yourself. But some examples could be:

If you have the dough, hiring a housekeeper will put it out of your mind and also force you to confront it weekly or monthly ("I have to tidy up for the housekeeper," seems to be a common cry.)

If you pay bills by hand, set up automatic payments. This seems so Web 1.0, but it's worth examining whether you really need to fill out that check and apply that stamp to the envelope. In fact, today I got an email from my student loan company informing me that people who pay bills online generally spend 15 minutes on the project, while those who pay by snail mail spend two hours. So if you dread bills, give it a shot.

Though a lot of decluttering is labor-intensive, there are some things you can automate:

If your inbox is a tangle of spam hiding important emails from editors, spend a few minutes today setting up important folders. Then direct specific emails to those folders so they don't hit your inbox (On Mac's you do this by creating rules in the "Preferences" menu under "Mail."). Instead, they head right to folders where you can look at them in your own time. You can also get rid of paper statements, instead getting email statements, and reducing the number of letters--and thus paper--you have to sort through later.

Bills again
Are you still receiving your bank statements via snail mail? If so, you're crowding your desk with clutter and adding another step to your day. Do yourself a favor and sign up for electronic payments. Most creditors offer this, and you can direct those emails directly to specific files just for them. That way, you know where they are when you need them, and you don't have to spend any time on them unless you want to.

What don't you automate, but could? What keeps you from doing it?

Photo by lylemerie.

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